Caribbean Destination Series-Part 1 Aruba


Aruba is among the livelier, more developed islands in the Caribbean. Aruba has high-rise resorts, great restaurants and glitzy casinos lining every white-sand beach. You’ll find plenty of things to do on Aruba vacations, too: sunbathing, world-class windsurfing and waterskiing by day, and discos, cabarets, dinner shows and high-stakes gambling at night.

What you won’t see in Aruba is an abundance of natural attractions. Nor is Aruba covered in lush foliage. It’s about as close to a desert island as you’ll find in the Caribbean, with stands of cacti and aloe vera dotting the dusty terrain. In fact, Aruba is so dry, goats eat the cacti in search of something resembling leaves.

Must See or Do

Sights—View the wind-shaped rock formations at Ayo and Casibari; bird-watching at Bubali Bird Sanctuary; history at the restored 17th-century Fort Zoutman; soothe your skin at the Aloe Factory in Hato; go spelunking to see the impressive Caiquetio petroglyphs at the entrance to the Fontein Cave (in Arikok National Park).

Museums—An amazing coin collection at the Numismatic Museum; artifacts that trace the island’s history and culture over 4,500 years at the Archaelogical Museum.Memorable Meals—A late lunch at Don Carlo’s; local seafood specialties at Charlie’s Bar; Caribbean dishes at Papiamento.Late Night—Evening concerts, musicals and ballet at Cas di Cultura; gambling, live bands, shows and discos at one of the island’s casinos; mingle with the sophisticated crowd at The Lounge at Crystal Casino; dance to merengue at Bahia or Mambo Jambo; sail on the Tattoo, Aruba’s No. 1 party boat.Walks—Climb to Yamanota Hill in Arikok National Park, the highest point in Aruba; hike up the steps of Hooiberg Hill for another great view of the island; stroll through Oranjestad to explore its Dutch-Colonial architecture.Especially for Kids—An early-morning visit to the Butterfly Farm; baby ostriches at the Aruba Ostrich Farm; a day at The Blue Parrotfish Water Park on private DePalm Island.

Geography

Just 15 mi/24 km off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is the farthest west of the Dutch islands known as the ABCs (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). It is 19 mi/30 km long and 6 mi/9 km wide, and the land is mostly flat and arid with scattered fields of cacti and aloe plants.

History

The islands off the Venezuelan coast and their Caiquetio inhabitants (part of a larger group of Caribbean people called Arawaks) were sighted by the Spanish in 1499, but the island was not developed because the newcomers found nothing useful there. (They were not aware of the gold.) However, Captain Henry Morgan and the infamous Edward Teach (Blackbeard) found use for the island’s many hidden coves during their pirate days plying the waters.Although the Dutch claimed Aruba in 1636, no European settlers arrived until the 1750s. The discovery of gold in 1824 brought some excitement and colonists to the island. The mining lasted 100 years and produced more than 3 million lbs/1.4 million kgs of the glittering mineral. For several years in the mid-1800s, Aruba was the world’s largest exporter of aloe, and aloe products are still produced there on a small scale.The arrival of the oil industry in the 1920s, after black gold was found in nearby Venezuela, had a big economic impact. Lago, which later became Exxon, was a crucial supplier of fuel to U.S. naval ships during World War II. At its height in 1965, the refinery in San Nicolas produced 550,000 barrels of oil a day. When the market declined in the mid-1980s, Exxon closed the facility. Successive companies failed to maintain the operation, but the San Antonio (U.S.)-based Valero Energy Corporation gained control of the facility in 2004 and reportedly invested close to US$640 million in upgrades; San Nicolas is hoping the Valero Aruba Refinery, acquired from Coastal Oil in 2004, will revive the town’s economy.Tourists began arriving in the 1960s, but development of large resort hotel-casinos really started in earnest in the 1980s, when declining oil revenues led the government to seek new ways to bolster the economy. The boom outdid itself in enthusiasm, and the government had to issue a five-year moratorium on hotel building in the 1990s to keep supply and demand at the proper ratio; still, many new resorts have risen along Aruba’s windswept shores in the past decade.Today, tourism is the leading industry, and more than half a million people visit Aruba each year, making it one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. As a result, the island is prosperous by Caribbean standards, and its citizens enjoy a high rate of literacy, good housing, education and health care.Aruba has been quasi-independent since 1986, when it became a separate entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Actually, the island has been influenced as much by Venezuela (only 15 mi/24 km away from Aruba) as by the Netherlands. Most Arubans speak English, Spanish and Dutch, as well as Papiamento (a mixture of African, Arawak, Dutch, English, Portuguese and Spanish idioms).Formerly a part of the six-federation Netherlands Antilles, Aruba gained separate status on 1 January 1986. This means that Aruba has direct ties to Holland, but the island has its own constitution, based on Western democratic principles. This calls for a governor and an eight-member council of ministers vested with executive powers and headed by a prime minister. A 21-member parliament is responsible for legislative matters. Judicial powers lie with the common courts in Aruba, and ultimately with the High Court of Justice in Holland.

Snapshot

Aruba’s foremost attractions include beaches, shopping, casinos, watersports, excellent restaurants, high-energy nightlife and very friendly people.If you enjoy good beaches, ethnic food, gambling and quality shopping, Aruba is for you. Don’t expect, however, to partake in a “Bali Hai” island experience (Aruba resembles a flat desert) or to find much distinctive Caribbean culture. If you prefer lush rain-forest-type destinations, Aruba may not be your preference. It’s more like Arizona or New Mexico than Puerto Rico or St. Croix.

Port Information
Location

Aruba’s port is at Oranjestad, the island’s capital and main town, which is on the southern coast, 2.5 mi/4 km west of Queen Beatrix International Airport. The dock is toward the north end of the town center, within easy walking distance of the bus terminal, shops, restaurants and casinos.Cruise ships tie up at one of three terminals, which are operated by Aruba Ports Authority (Port Administration Building, L.G. Smith Boulevard 23, Oranjestad. Phone 297-582-6633. http://arubaports.com.

Potpourri

Aruba holds two annual competitions of paso-fino horses—descendants of the Andalusian and Arabian horses brought to the New World by the conquistadors. The creatures’ controlled and elegant gait is delightful. The competitions are held in September and early November.Those unusual-looking trees bent over by the wind are watapana (divi-divi) trees, and they make it impossible to get lost on Aruba. All of the trees are bent to the southwest, where the majority of the hotels and resorts are located.The frequently used description cunucu house refers to a house in the countryside. Cunucu means “country” in Papiamento.The city of Oranjestad was established in 1824 and named in honor of the Dutch Royal Family, which is known as the House of Orange, whose first king was Willem van Oranje-Nassau.Fort Zoutman, site of the Bon Bini festival every Tuesday night, was built in 1798 to protect the east side of the island. Bon Bini means “welcome” in Papiamento, and the festival is a year-round folkloric event that celebrates Aruban music, local cuisine and crafts.Nature lovers: Be sure to pay attention to the lizards and cacti on the island—there are unusual species of both.If you want to speak Papiamento, start with con ta bai (“how are you”). Masha danki means “thank you.” Bon dia means “good day.”When tromping about in undeveloped areas on the southern tip of the island, watch out for a rattlesnake that’s native to the island. For some reason, it chooses not to rattle a warning before striking (the danger of being bitten is very slight—in fact, the snake is an endangered species).Aruba’s Natural Bridge was once one of the island’s most recognizable attractions, gracing every tourist item from shot glasses to postcards. Alas, this wave-carved wonder collapsed into the sea in 2005.

See & Do
Sightseeing

Aruba is an island for lazy beach days, late party nights and occasional excursions into the untamed countryside. While there are plenty of creature comforts, including all the grown-up toys made for water and land adventures, there are relatively few cultural or historical places worthy of more than a quick visit. Exceptions include the Archaelogical Museum and the Numismatic Museum, both in Oranjestad.The best natural site on the island, the Natural Bridge, crumbled into a rock pile several years ago, leaving smaller natural bridges and caves along the windward coast as the main tourist attractions.At Casibari, in the center of the island, and Ayo, down the road in an easterly direction, you’ll find the most striking landforms on the island—giant diorite boulders that have been carved into eerie, dramatic shapes by the wind.Outside Oranjestad are a few other attractions worth visiting. For a panoramic view of the island, we suggest climbing to the top of Hooiberg (the Haystack), located 6 mi/10 km east of Oranjestad. The climb up several hundred carved steps is strenuous but worth the effort. Although this isn’t the highest point on the island, it has the best views. Make the climb early in the day, if possible.There are many caves on Aruba, but none are very long or deep. Guadirikiri, a large bat cave, is basically easy to maneuver except for a few slippery slopes. Fontein (in Arikok Park) is rather shallow, but a must-see for its impressive Caiquetio petroglyphs—the best of which are near the entrance. Both caves are northeast of Oranjestad.

Casinos

Alhambra Casino
A huge, fierce-looking Turk in a fez guards the door. Lots of slots and gaming tables. The Aladdin Theatre has a magic show on Monday and Wednesday-Saturday at 9 pm. Cleo’s Restaurant is fine for a snack or light meal, with happy hour daily 6-8 pm. J.E.Irausquin Boulevard 47, Aruba. Phone 583-5000. http://casinoalhambra.com.

Museums

Aloe Factory
Get in touch with Aruban history at this factory and museum. Once a very important part of the island’s economy, aloe grows well in the dry climate. The factory estimates that its 1,600 acres/647 hectares produce about 2 million plants, concentrating on the aloe vera species (used for skin ailments and healing burns). The modern building houses a museum, which documents the history of aloe in Aruba, and an enclosed catwalk lets you look down on production in progress. The aloe-oriented gift shop sells the full line of products produced in the factory, including body lotions and hair-care items. Open Monday-Saturday 8:30 am-5 pm. Tours are Monday-Friday 8:30 am-4 pm, Saturday 9 am-1 pm. US$8 adults, US$4 children. Pitastraat 115, Hato, Aruba. Phone 588-3222. http://www.arubaaloe.com.

The Archaeological Museum
Archaeologists have uncovered amazing things on Aruba. Chief among the ancient finds are skulls and bones believed to belong to members of a preceramic tribe who lived on the island between 2500 BC and AD 1000. Other relics include stone tools and pottery. Monday-Friday 8 am-noon and 1-4 pm. Free. Instituto di Cultura, J. Irausquinplein 2-A, Aruba. Phone 582-8979.

The Numismatic Museum of Aruba
This is no old, boring coin collection. Owner Mario Odor died in 2001, leaving his 35,000-piece collection for all to enjoy. It illustrates the history and culture of at least 400 countries, including the Roman Empire, Ancient Greece, Mystic India, Chinese Dynasties and the Byzantines. One of the most interesting collections is a set of German and Japanese occupation notes and script issued in concentration camps. Monday-Thursday 9 am-4 pm, Friday 9 am-1 pm, Saturday 9 am-noon. Free. The museum is across from the cruise-ship terminal on Weststraat, adjacent to Royal Plaza, Aruba. Phone 965-6969. http://www.museumaruba.org.

Nature

Casibari has always been one of our favorite stops on Aruba. Most visitors climb to the top of the highest rock (the one with steps and railings), take in the view and then leave. If you spend a little time wandering in, around and behind the surrounding formations, you’ll appreciate the lined paths leading to secret gardens and flowering niches that have been blended into unusual crevices and ledges. It’s raw nature, and seen by so few visitors. The usual refreshment stand exists, but it’s at the entrance and doesn’t intrude on your serenity, when you find your secret garden.

Amusement Parks

The Blue Parrotfish Water Park
Part of the De Palm Island entertainment complex, this water park features a variety of waterslides as well as kiddie areas with tunnels, water guns and other water features. The water park is included with all the other De Palm Island offerings, including snorkeling and all-inclusive food, drinks and alcoholic beverages. US$93 adults full-day, US$46 children full-day. Phone 582-4400. Toll-free 800-766-6016 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800-766-6016      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. http://www.depalm.com.

Zoos & Wildlife

Aruba Ostrich Farm
This is one of the latest additions to Aruba’s attractions. The parent company is in Curacao, where ostriches are bred, but this farm is strictly for show and for supplying meat to the restaurants. A guided drive features stops at incubation pens and quarters for babies (who can walk shortly after birth) and older ostriches. There’s an African-style store, and a bar and restaurant where you can try the ostrich meat in various forms. Open daily 9 am-4 pm. Admission US$12 adults, US$6 children ages 3-12. Near Bushiribana, Matividiri 57, Paradera, Aruba. Phone 585-9630. http://www.arubaostrichfarm.com.

The Butterfly Farm
Take a guided tour through lush gardens and around fish ponds. A guide regales you with butterfly anecdotes, mating habits, diet and identification. Go early in the morning: That’s when you’ll find the 500 or so residents at their most active. Delicate butterfly jewelry and other items are available in the gift shop. Open 9 am-4:30 pm (last tour at 4 pm). US$12 adults, US$6 children ages 4-16. One admission assures a free pass to the farm for the remainder of your stay. J. Irausquin Boulevard z/n (about 4 mi/7 km from Oranjestad), Aruba. Phone 586-3656. http://www.thebutterflyfarm.com.

Recreation

Recreational activities on Aruba are virtually endless. The beaches and sea are spectacular, and many visitors spend most of their vacation in, on or under the water. Snorkel masks and fins are as essential as sunblock, and even novice scuba divers can see amazing sealife at shallow depths.Sailing, kayaking, windsurfing and Jet Skiing are among the vast number of watersports available on the leeward coast. Guided ATV, horseback and off-road bike tours are popular with visitors who seek a bit more adventure.

Beaches

Aruba has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, at least when the winds aren’t playing havoc with the sand. The calmest water and the biggest crowds are on the west side of the island near the major resorts. Beaches on the east side are less crowded, but the trade winds and tides can be very strong, particularly in the afternoon. Beaches on the northeast side of the island are rocky, and seas are rougher and not as good for swimming. The water is a wonderful blue-green color most everywhere, though.Eagle Beach and Palm Beach, which are northwest of Oranjestad in the midst of the resort area, are among our favorites because of their powdery, white sand. They also are easy to reach by bus or taxi—about a 15-minute ride from downtown Oranjestad. Get there first thing in the morning, before the sun gets too hot (or the crowds arrive).Druif Beach is in the heart of the resort area. As a result, it tends to be crowded with cruise-ship passengers. Andicuri Beach, on the east side near the former Natural Bridge, has rougher surf and high waves, but more privacy. The best way to get there is to take a taxi. Baby Beach, along a pretty bay on the southeastern tip of the island, is a more relaxed location. Be aware, however, that Baby Beach offers little to no shade, so take plenty of sunscreen and a hat. (It also gets very crowded on Sunday.) Rodger’s Beach, in San Nicolas at Seroe Colorado, is secluded and quiet. Coco Beach, just a stone’s throw away, is just the opposite—hip, trendy and wild during weekends.

Bicycling

Mountain biking has become popular in Aruba, especially in Arikok National Park. Rancho Notorious (phone 586-0508; http://www.ranchonotorious.com) does two-and-a-half-hour biking trips to the northern part of the island. Rates are US$45 per person for group tours, US$90 per person for private tours. Aruba Active Vacations also offers mountain-bike rentals for US$25 per day and a two-hour guided tour for US$55. Phone 586-0989 or 741-2991. http://www.aruba-active-vacations.com.

Bird Watching

Bird-watchers will enjoy a visit to the wetlands at Bubali Bird Sanctuary, which is about 4 mi/6 km northwest of Oranjestad. Some 300 bird species either reside on or visit Aruba, and Bubali is the best place to spot fish eagles, herons and cormorants, as well as the oriolelike orange trupiaal, the prikichi parakeet and the yellow-bellied barica geel.If you’re interested in parakeets, visit the area near Frenchman’s Pass (about 5 mi/8 km east of Oranjestad). These little birds also chatter up a storm in Arikok National Park, especially at dusk.

Boating & Sailing

You can explore the waters around Aruba in catamarans, sailboats, motorboats and glass-bottomed boats.

Aruba Adventures
Aruba Adventures runs the adults-only dinner and party cruise aboard Tattoo, a refurbished ship with a dance floor and state-of-the-art sound system, and a sailing and snorkeling cruise aboard the Mi Dushi (a 1925 Swedish wind-powered ship). Phone 297-586-2010. http://www.arubaadventures.com.

Aruba Kayak Adventures
This company schedules guided tours daily along the coast with a snorkeling stop above an active reef. Trip includes kayak training, all equipment, lunch and transportation to and from the launch site for US$99 per person. Office is at Ponton No. 90, Oranjestad, Aruba. Phone 297-582-5520. http://www.arubakayak.com.

Atlantis Adventures
Landlubbers who want to experience the joys of scuba diving without getting wet can take a two-hour trip on the submarine Atlantis VI down to Barcadera Reef for US$89-US$99, or go below water level on the Seaworld Explorer for a an hour-and-a-half tour of the German shipwreck Antilla for US$37-$44. Reservations also may be made through Red Sail Sports or De Palm Tours. Phone 588-6881 or 866-546-7820 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              866-546-7820      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. http://www.atlantisadventures.com.

Red Sail Sports
This operation offers a variety of choices, including sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing. A four-hour snorkeling trip by catamaran with equipment, lunch and open bar costs US$65 adults, US$39 children ages 3-12. L.G. Smith Boulevard No. 17, Oranjestad, Aruba. Phone 583-1603. http://www.redsailaruba.com.

Fishing

The waters off Aruba are home to marlin, sailfish, barracuda and tuna, among others. Half-day trips can be arranged for about US$350 per boat; full-day excursions are about US$700 per boat with up to four passengers.

Mahi-Mahi Fishing Charters
The fishing boat Mahi Mahi is the first one next to The Seaport Casino, in the Renaissance Marketplace area. The Kepasa is next to the parking area. Seaport Marina, Aruba. Phone 297-587-7778. http://www.aruba-mahimahi.com.

Golf

Adventure Golf
Adventure Golf, which claims to be the world’s largest miniature golf course, features an 18-hole elevated course surrounded by water—and a full complex of entertainment venues, from paddleboats to a go-kart raceway, game room, batting cages and an Italian restaurant. Minigolf is US$8 per person. Across from LaCabana Resort, Aruba. Phone 587-6625. http://www.blackhogsaloon.com.

The Links at Divi Aruba
The Links at Divi Aruba is a nine-hole course with a pro shop and restaurants. US$115 for 18 holes during the winter and US$95 during the summer. Discounts are available at various times and to guests registered at a Divi resort. (Directly across from the Divi Village and Tamarijn resorts). Phone 581-4653. http://www.divigolf.com.

Tierra del Sol Resort, Spa and Country Club
The 18-hole championship course at the Tierra del Sol Resort, Spa and Country Club, on the northwest coast near the California Lighthouse, showcases the island’s desertlike beauty, with stands of cacti and unusual rock formations scattered about the course. The “No Embarrassment” clinic for weekend duffers and newcomers to the sport includes a one-and-a-half-hour lesson, equipment and lunch for US$45 per person. Expect to pay US$92-$159, depending on the season and time of day, for 18 holes, including cart. Malmokweg z/n, Aruba. Phone 586-0978. Toll-free 866-978-5111 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              866-978-5111      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. http://www.tierradelsol.com.

Horseback Riding

Get to know the wild side of Aruba during a horseback ride through the countryside—cacti, divi-divi trees and aloe vera plants provide the backdrop to an early-morning trot. Experience is not required, but sunscreen is recommended.Rancho Notorious includes beach rides among its offerings—countryside and coast rides range from US$70 to US$200. Phone 586-0508. http://www.ranchonotorious.com.Rancho del Campo offers the option of various group rides for US$60 or private tours for US$100. Phone 585-0290. http://www.ranchodelcampo.com

Scuba & Snorkeling

Aruba’s clear blue-green water makes the island an ideal place to engage in watersports—particularly snorkeling. One of the best places to snorkel is Boca Catalina Beach on the northwest coast, near the lighthouse. Fish come in all shapes and colors—yellow stripes, black dots, electric blue. And you’ll find them close to shore.If you don’t have your own snorkeling gear, many resorts provide complimentary gear, and you can rent equipment at sports huts on the beach for US$15 per day. Other good places for snorkeling are Mangel Halto, Arashi, Baby, Boca Catalina, Palm and Rodger’s beaches.Aruba’s diving may not be as famous as nearby Bonaire’s, but it’s still good. Most shops schedule their dive excursions in the morning, before the wind picks up too much. Established operators often are affiliated with the main resorts, and dives may be booked through the activities desk.Most dive operators also offer introductory courses, which provide basic instruction and a shallow dive with an instructor for around US$95. Red Sail offers SASY and Bubblemaker classes for children beginning at age 6 for US$30-$40. If you’re not taking one of the introductory courses, you must be a certified diver and present your C card to rent equipment and go diving.Popular destinations are two shallow-water shipwrecks: the Pedernales, a German World War II oil tanker mistakenly torpedoed by the German navy, and the Antilla, a German sub-supply ship great for night dives. It was scuttled near Malmok, on the northwestern end of the island, when the Germans invaded Holland, so it wouldn’t fall into Dutch hands. Experienced divers enjoy the California wreck, the Jane Sea wreck and Mangel Halto Reef, which has beautiful black coral as well as giant barrel sponges.Diving in Aruba is generally very safe, but in the event of a diving emergency, a recompression center is adjacent to the 300-bed Doctor Horacio Oduber Hospital, Punta Brabo 3, Oranjestad. Phone 297-730-7246.In addition, the Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) will provide treatment advice and, if necessary, arrange for evacuation. DAN also answers health-related questions about diving. Phone 919-684-8111 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              919-684-8111      end_of_the_skype_highlighting for DAN’s headquarters in the U.S. Toll-free 877-595-0625 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              877-595-0625      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. http://www.dan.org. De Palm Tours
Offers a choice of catamaran cruises including a snorkel trip to the German shipwreck Antilla, with open bar, lunch and equipment.De Palm also offers snuba, a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving where you go to depths of 15 ft/5 m using a hose attached to an air tank floating on the surface.De Palm’s Sea Trek adventure involves a large helmet over your head with a window that allows you to explore the depths as you walk on the sea floor in the midst of marine life.Catamaran cruises with snorkeling US$69 adults, US$34.50 children; snuba trips US$124 including lesson; Sea Trek US$124-$195 per person, including various full-day tours. Phone 582-4400. Toll-free 800-766-6016 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800-766-6016      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. http://www.depalm.com.

Pelican Adventures
Offers a variety of scuba, snorkeling and sailing trips. Fees vary depending on trip. Phone 587-2302 Monday-Friday, 586-1455 Saturday and Sunday. http://www.pelican-aruba.com.

Other Options

Strong, reliable trade winds make Aruba one of the world’s top windsurfing spots. Fisherman’s Hut, at the northern tip of the island (about 10 mi/16 km from Oranjestad), attracts serious wave riders from around the world.But you don’t have to be an expert to windsurf there. Beginners can rent a board at Arashi Beach (at the northern end of Fisherman’s Hut) or at Malmok Beach (at the southern end). Two hours of instruction and practice will cost about US$50 from Aruba Active Vacations, phone 586-0989 or 741-2991. http://www.aruba-active-vacations.com.Kite boarding (or kitesurfing) has literally taken off in Aruba. Watch the locals practice their radical moves at Boca Grandi Beach, down on the southern end of the island where the surf is high, or up north at Arashi Beach near the lighthouse, where the winds play havoc with sea and air maneuvers. If you want to join the fun, a two-and-a-half-hour rental will cost you US$100 at Aruba Active, or book a five-lesson plan for US$450.Yet another way to take advantage of Aruba’s famous breezes is to try your hand at landsailing, similar to windsurfing, but on land (specifically on a salt flat near Fisherman’s Hut). Aruba Active offers landsailing rentals for US$60 for two and a half hours.

Nightlife

Aruba’s lively nightlife has earned it a reputation as the Las Vegas of the Caribbean. In the evening, you can choose among casino gambling, discos, movable parties and cabaret dinner shows. If you want to sample a variety of places, most of the large resorts and casinos are north of Oranjestad between Druif Beach and Palm Beach.The legal drinking age and for entry into most nightclubs is 18. Identification is required for admittance to adult-only clubs.The island’s casinos, all of which are in major hotels (a hotel must have a minimum of 300 rooms in order to open a casino), offer live bands, shows or discos, as well as gambling. Be sure to check the hours of the casino you’re interested in beforehand—some are open 24 hours. A few stagger their opening times, depending on the game—for instance, they may open at 11 am for slots only, add blackjack and roulette at 1 pm, then open all games at 9 pm.You’ll find some nice clubs in Oranjestad itself. There’s plenty of imported rock ‘n’ roll, reggae and rap pumping through the speakers, but you’ll also hear merengue in Aruba. Some hotels also have nightclub shows offering anything from steel bands to Las Vegas-style and Latin extravaganzas (and, as is true elsewhere in the Caribbean, you’ll find no shortage of Carnival limbo and fire-dance shows). Be sure to reserve a table early in the day, especially in season—the better ones often sell out.If you get tired of the casinos, there’s a drive-in movie theater in Santa Cruz near the airport on the way to San Nicolas (phone 583-0318 or 585-8355; http://www.thecinemas.aw), or visit the Eagle Bowling Palace, open daily 10 am-2 am (phone 583-5038).For those who like to be on the move, reserve a spot with Aruba Adventures (phone 586-2010; http://www.arubaadventures.com) on one of their all-you-can-drink movable parties. Choose from the Tattoo, which lights up the waters at night; sail on Mi Dushi, where you can take a dip from a rope swing on the mast; or barhop on the wildly painted Kukoo Kunuku bus with a built-in designated driver.

Bars, Taverns & Pubs

Black Hog Saloon
A great place to party seven nights a week with an all-you-can-eat barbecue, bar-stool racing, a Harley show like you’ve never seen, and free drinks, if you don’t count the steep admission. The Hog also claims to have the largest minigolf course in the world. US$39.95 admission. Across from the La Cabana resort, Aruba. Phone 587-6625. http://www.blackhogsaloon.com.

Garufa
A well-appointed cigar club complete with humidor, this place offers live music beginning at 8 pm. Open Monday-Thursday 6 pm-1 am, Friday and Saturday 6 pm-2 am. Closed Sunday. Wilhelminastraat 63 (across from El Gaucho), Aruba. Phone 582-3677. http://www.garufa-aruba.com.

Dance & Nightclubs

Cafe Bahia
Weststraat No. 7, Aruba. Phone 588-9982.

Mambo Jambo
J. E. Irausquin Boulevard No. 230, Aruba. Phone 583-3632. http://www.mambojamboaruba.com.

Performing Arts
Theater

Cas di Cultura
This center stages plays, concerts and dance performances in its 200-seat theater. Check current events and entertainment listed in Aruba Nights or K-Pasa. Vondellaan 2, Aruba. Phone 582-1010. http://www.casdicultura.com.

Shopping

Although Aruba is not a duty-free port, the duty on most items is so low that shoppers often find discounts on all sorts of high-quality goods (note that we said discounts, not bargains). Liquor prices represent real savings, whereas the prices for jewelry, silverware and china are comparable to sale prices back home.Popular items are Dutch products, including Delft ceramics, wooden shoes, and fine cheeses and chocolates. You’ll also find good value in designer leather goods, Madeira embroidery, Indonesian crafts and wood carvings. Linens, crystal and perfumes from South America and Europe are good buys, too. You’ll see aloe, grown and processed locally, in every conceivable form, from soap to skin toners.Several malls feature upscale shops on L.G. Smith Boulevard in the center of Oranjestad, within walking distance of the ship terminals. The shocking-pink Royal Plaza Mall has trendy shops, such as Nautica, Benetton and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as an Internet cafe and Iguana Joe’s Caribbean Bar and Grill.Renaissance Marketplace at the Renaissance Resort is a complex of restaurants and specialty shops overlooking the marina. Jewelry, beachwear, fashion accessories and island souvenirs are the main buys. Renaissance Mall is across from the marina and has more than 60 elegant shops, such as Chopard, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.The beachfront hotel strip has become a shopping haven with the opening of Paseo Herencia Mall across from Holiday Inn on Palm Beach. This multifunction complex has movie theaters, restaurants, a cultural center and dozens of shops and kiosks. Well-known local shops include Maggy’s, Aruba Aloe, Javaruba Batik Fashions, and for chocolate lovers, Taste of Belgium. Visitors especially enjoy the lovely architecture and colorful Dancing Waters fountain in the center courtyard. Additional malls are being planned within walking distance of the hotels in this area.Shopping Hours: Generally, Monday-Saturday 8 am-noon and 2-6 pm. Shops usually stay open during lunch hours when cruise ships are in port. Some open on Sunday, as well. Stores in shopping malls typically stay open Monday-Saturday 9:30 am-6 pm

Markets

Tourist Go Flea Market
This is a must-stop for bargain hunters. Visitors will find good prices on local art, crafts, souvenirs and beachwear. Big Daddy’s sells barbecued meals and cold drinks. Saturday and Sunday 8 am-8 pm. L.G. Smith Boulevard (across from the waterfront in Oranjestad), Aruba.

Itinerary
Local Tours

Among the established operators on the island are De Palm Tours (phone 582-4400), Watapana Tours (phone 583-5191; http://www.watapanaaruba.com) and Wix Tours (phone 586-0347 or 586-0357; http://www.wixtours.com). Offerings cover everything from ATV safaris to eco-horseback rides.

Day By Day

Because the island is so small, logistics present no problems when you are planning an itinerary. You can see all the sights in two days, using Oranjestad as a base. Add as many more days as you can to enjoy relaxing on the beach, watersports, shopping and gambling (if you’re arriving via the relatively long flight from North America, we’d stay no less than five days). If your schedule permits, visit the other ABC islands as well—several regional airlines make the trip.

Day Plans

To help you make the most of your time in Aruba, we’ve designed three separate itineraries. PLAN AThe Beaches, the Museums and a Dinner ShowThe very first thing you should do in the morning is plan your evening: Otherwise, your first choice for entertainment may be sold out. Find out what shows are playing in the hotels that night and make reservations early. Consider booking a dinner show; by combining your meal and entertainment, you’ll have time to enjoy other island offerings that night.Then grab your swimsuit and take a bus to Palm Beach, which is in the midst of the resort area, north of Oranjestad. (On your way, be sure to ask the driver when the buses make the return trip to town from the beach—usually it’s every 15 minutes.)After spending time in the surf, head back to Oranjestad for a late lunch at Don Carlo’s (phone 583-6246), an open-air spot on the waterfront that serves lunch and dinner daily. Then stroll around town, stopping at Fort Zoutman, the Archeological Museum and the Numismatic Museum. If you want to shop, try the stores on the town square or main streets for better prices than those at the waterfront malls.If you’re staying in town or at a Palm Beach high-rise, you may need to take a taxi to your night’s entertainment—the public buses don’t run after 6 pm. If you still have energy to burn after the show, go casino hopping. Just walk along the beachfront sidewalk that connects the Palm Beach hotels, and step into whichever one suits your fancy. At least seven or eight hotels in the immediate row have casinos.PLAN BSnorkeling/Windsurfing We suggest renting a car or hiring a taxi for this itinerary—that way, you can enjoy your time rather than waste it waiting for public transportation. Start your day by snorkeling at Rodger’s Beach in San Nicolas.Then lunch at Charlie’s Bar (phone 584-5086; http://www.charliesbararuba.com), where you can check out the memorabilia from San Nicolas’ heyday as a refinery boomtown. The specialty is steamed shrimp and, if you like your seasoning hot, hot, hot, then buy a bottle of Charlie’s Honeymoon Sauce. Walk off those calories with a short stroll around the block to South End Art Gallery and browse among the works of local talent.Your next destination is an area known as Fisherman’s Hut, which is on the northern tip of the island—the exact opposite direction from San Nicolas. (It’s beyond all the high-rise resorts.) The two beaches in Fisherman’s Hut offer world-class windsurfing. After your last wave, head for the Okeanos Spa in town at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino and get those kinks worked out.Other options include Body & Soul Spa at the Tierra del Sol Resort, Spa and Country Club; the Hyatt’s Stillwater Spa on Palm Beach; or Spa at Tara in the Bucuti Beach Resort.PLAN CNature TourFirst thing, put on your most comfortable walking shoes. Then rent a Jeep or hire a taxi with four-wheel drive, pick up some food for a picnic and head northeast from Oranjestad toward the hill known as Hooiberg (the Haystack). After you’ve soaked in the view from the top, continue east to Andicuri Beach.After a swim, break out the picnic. Or, if you don’t want to bother with packing one, lunch at Boca Prins, an open bar and restaurant by the sea in Arikok Park, right at your next stop.Three nature stops will take up the rest of the afternoon: The first stop will be at Fontein Cave, where you can see several Caiquetio paintings. Then view the rock formations at Ayo and Casibari; it’s amazing what a stiff wind can do to a rock. Your final destination will be the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, northwest of Oranjestad, on the other side of the island. You’ll want to have binoculars and a camera.

Dining
Dining Overview

Aruba has a tremendous variety of restaurants, including Japanese, Indonesian, Dutch, French and Italian. Excellent local food can be found at many of Aruba’s cafes.Among the local specialties are shrimp en coco (a delicacy made with brandy and coconut), pastechi (meat, shrimp or fish wrapped in a light crust), funchi (cornmeal) and lamb with pan bati (flat bread or pancakes). Top it all off with a taste of quesillo, a delicious caramel flan. Be sure to go to a restaurant offering a rijsttafel, an Indonesian buffet at your table that could feed an army.The local beer is Balashi (http://www.balashi.com), brewed on the island. Imported beers from the Netherlands are also widely available.Through the efforts of the Aruba Gastronomic Association, visitors can dine at more than 30 of Aruba’s top eateries as part of a well-organized Dine-Around program. Prices for coupon books range from US$117 for three dinners to US$262 for seven dinners. Participating establishments put very few limits on your coupon value. The Wine-Around program features six top restaurants, and each US$85 dinner voucher entitles the guest to a five-course gourmet meal with matching wines. Contact the association to purchase booklets. Phone 586-3797. http://www.arubadining.com.Other options include Renaissance Marketplace choices: Sushi-Ya, a full sushi bar (phone 583-9982; http://www.sushiya-aruba.com/); The Waterfront Crabhouse (phone 297-583-5858) and Cafe La Terraza (phone 297-583-6046).If you are in Aruba around Christmas and you’re brave, try the traditional Antillean Christmas dish called sulz. Aruban cooks marinate a pig’s ear and feet in vinegar with onions and hot pepper, boil it and serve it with bread.Expect to pay within these guidelines for a meal for one, not including drinks, tax or tip: $ = less than US$15; $$ = US$15-$25; $$$ = US$26-$50; and $$$$ = more than US$50.

Local & Regional

Brisas del Mar
Authentic local seafood dishes, including keri keri (minced fish) and balchi pisca (fish cakes) served with funchi or pan bati. Open daily except Monday for dinner, lunch also Sunday-Friday. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$$. Most major credit cards. Savaneta 222A, Oranjestad, Aruba. Phone 584-7718. http://www.brisasdelmararuba.com.

Charlie’s Bar
This tavern in southeast Aruba has reached legendary status after more than 65 years in business. The walls are decorated with memorabilia from family, locals and legions of worldwide visitors, and every conceivable knickknack hangs from the ceiling. Local seafood specialties fill the menu. Monday-Saturday 11:30 am-9:30 pm, bar open until 10:30 pm. Reservations accepted but not usually required. $-$$. Most major credit cards. Zeppenfeldtstraat 56, San Nicolas, Aruba. Phone 297-584-5086. http://www.charliesbararuba.com.

Nos Cunucu
The name (Our Country House) describes the home cooking you’ll find there, but this haphazard bar and restaurant in no way resembles a house. Music and show on Wednesday, family picnic with dance show on Sunday in the high season. Waitresses wear traditional dress, and portions are generous. Stews, soups, and typical entrees such as shark and grouper have an Aruban flair. The chicken salad with peas and mashed potatoes on top—colored with beet juice—is delicious. Top off your meal with the drink chuculati pinda (hot chocolate with milk and peanut butter). Open daily for dinner. $-$$. Most major credit cards. Tanki Leendert 145K, Aruba. Phone 582-7122.

Papiamento Restaurant
This 150-year-old family home—a true cunucu house—is chock-full of antiques and collector’s items. If you’re dining in the garden, be sure to roam the rooms inside. Caribbean dishes are presented with flair, with many beef and seafood dishes cooked and served on a sizzling hot stone. Those in the know order the house specialty—a clay pot for two filled with seafood, vegetables and fine herbs (it’s not on the menu). Open Monday-Saturday for dinner. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$$. Most major credit cards. Washington 61, Noord, Aruba. Phone 586-4544 or 586-2135. http://www.papiamentorestaurant.com.

Cuisines
French

Le Dome
Have your choice of atmosphere in this expansive home. The cozy brick-walled and beamed dining room reflects the owner’s French heritage, as do several offerings on the menu. The chef’s ancestry surfaces in the dessert column—Belgian waffles. There’s a garden terrace, L’Gallerie, and the indoor L’Orangerie features a living-room setting—its mirrored walls create a spacious feeling (other dining rooms have old-world and Salvador Dali themes). The menu features escargot, foie gras, duck l’orange and beef fillet with goose-liver mousse. Open daily except Monday for dinner, Sunday for brunch. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Irausquin Blvd. 224, Oranjestad, Aruba. Phone 587-1517. http://ledome-aruba.com.

Continental

Screaming Eagle
A chic new restaurant between the high-rise and low-rise hotels that has quickly risen to the top of the most-talked-about list. The menu claims to be French fusion, and main courses lean heavily toward saucy seafood dishes and top-quality beef. Funky elegance might best describe the decor, which features a lot of filmy fabric draping candle-lit tables, white sofas and even a pillow-strewn bed, where dinner is served in romantic privacy. Well-priced wine served by the glass and bottle. Extensive dessert list, and it’s a good idea to save room for la tazza famossa, a cup and saucer made of chocolate, filled with Tia Maria liqueur, orange sherbet and chocolate mousse. Indoor and outdoor seating. The upscale bar stays open late. Open nightly for dinner. Reservations recommended. $$$$. Most major credit cards. J.E. Irausquin Boulevard 228, Eagle Beach, Aruba. Phone 297-587-8021. http://www.screaming-eagle.net.

The Old Man and The Sea
Romantic dining at the water’s edge. A lighted path leads down to the water where tables are covered with white tablecloths, topped with candles and set widely apart for privacy. The service is friendly and attentive, but never intrusive. Seafood is the highlight, with macadamia-encrusted fish fillet one of the most popular dishes. Other gourmet choices include top-quality meats, such as filet mignon and veal. Excellent appetizers, including escargot, and a nice wine list. Chef Gabriel Ayala is talented and young, and his new restaurant is quickly becoming one of the most talked about on the island. Open Monday-Saturday for dinner. Reservations recommended. $$$-$$$$. Most major credit cards. Savaneta 356-A (south of the airport), Aruba. Phone 297-735-0840. http://www.theoldmanandthesearestaurant.com.

Seafood

Driftwood
Very popular, unpretentious spot downtown, two blocks behind Renaissance Aruba Hotel. Booths line the driftwood walls embedded with fish tanks. The owner has his own boat, and local fish dinners are guaranteed fresh. Lobster, surf and turf, shrimp and calamari done with Aruban flavors bring in crowds. Landlubbers choose from chicken, filet mignon and lamb chops. Open Wednesday-Monday for dinner. Reservations required. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Klipstraat 12, Oranjestad, Aruba. Phone 583-2515. http://www.driftwoodaruba.com.

Flying Fishbone
Reserve a table in the sand, close enough to the sea for water to lap your feet as you feast on lobster, duck, lamb, veal and a variety of fish. The chef gives everything a nouvelle twist, and a good wine list adds to the enjoyment. Candlelight and palm trees make for a romantic setting. Dry-feet seating is available on the deck. Monday-Saturday for dinner. Reservations recommended. $$$. Most major credit cards. Savaneta 344 (between the airport and San Nicolas), Aruba. Phone 297-584-2506. http://www.flyingfishbone.com.

Steak Houses

El Gaucho
Argentine food—steak, in other words—is the mainstay, although Aruban seafood dishes are also on the menu. Good wine list. Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. $$$. Most major credit cards. Wilhelminastraat 80, Oranjestad, Aruba. Phone 582-3677. http://www.elgaucho-aruba.com.

L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House
Part of the extensively renovated Renaissance Aruba Hotel, this upscale dining room greets you with a cobalt-blue lit waterfall cascading behind glass. The blue continues in all the ceilings and in spotlights accenting the all-white furnishings. Dramatic, and the service equals the setting. Breadsticks come in a conical holder; the carrot-cake dessert has layers of cream-cheese icing. The filet mignon—to borrow a cliche—really does melt in your mouth. A three-course special “Show Menu” is available for diners headed to the Crystal Theater. Open daily for dinner. The Lounge Midnight Grill is open 11 pm-6 am. Reservations required. $$$. Most major credit cards. Renaissance Mall, next to Crystal Casino, Oranjestad, Aruba. Phone 523-6195 or 523-6115. http://www.lgsmiths.com.

Security
Personal Safety

Natalee Holloway’s disappearance in 2005 has raised travelers’ fears about crime in Aruba, but the crime rate on the island remains low. Some petty crime (including the occasional armed robbery) occurs in Aruba, so take the usual precautions: Lock your hotel room and don’t leave valuables unattended on the beach. Theft of rental cars also occurs, so be sure to lock your vehicle and park it in a safe place.The downtown area and hotel strip are well lighted and patrolled by security, but visitors should avoid dark streets and isolated areas. It is also wise to travel in groups after dark or when visiting remote sections of the island. If you plan to go out alone, take the precaution of informing a companion or the hotel reception desk of your destination and expected return time.For the latest information, contact your country’s travel-advisory agency.

Health

Medical facilities in Oranjestad are excellent, including the Dr. Horacio Oduber Hospital on L.G. Smith Boulevard. Phone 297-587-4300. http://www.arubahospital.com. A recompression center is adjacent to the hospital. Phone 297-730-7246.For medical help, dial 587-4300. In an emergency, dial 911 for police, ambulance or fire.The sun can be intense, so use sunscreen, moisturizing lotion, sunglasses and a hat. You can eat the food and drink the water in Aruba without consequence. Don’t forget a comfortable pair of walking shoes.For more information, contact your country’s health-advisory agency.

Disabled Advisory

Aruba is becoming more handicap accessible, but older parts of the towns and most natural attractions are difficult to manage for visitors with mobility limitations.Queen Beatrix International Airport meets all standards set by the American with Disabilities Act, and travelers with physical restrictions may request specially outfitted rooms, wheelchairs and canes at most of the larger hotels. Before leaving home, check with one of the large tour operators or the tourist bureau about transportation to and access at major attractions on the island.Red Sail Sports participates in programs for handicapped divers, and De Palm Tours has a bus equipped for travelers with disabilities. Medical equipment and health-care products are available through Labco. Phone 297-582-6651.

Dos & Don’ts

Do conserve water. The island depends on costly desalination for all of its drinking water.Don’t casually inquire whether a restaurant serves sushi. The word means “garbage” in Papiamento.Don’t litter the beaches: There’s a stiff penalty—around US$275—and the more you litter, the higher the fine.Don’t remove any plants or parts of plants (especially cacti) from Arikok National Park.Do get to know the people of Aruba. Their longtime tourist slogan is “One Happy Island,” and you’ll find that spirit reflected in many of the locals you meet.

Hotels
Hotel Overview

The big-name resorts and other hotels are a real draw, and accommodations range from deluxe high-rise properties (mostly concentrated along Palm Beach) to a few small, locally owned hotels and inns. Be careful to select the right property—they don’t all offer the same features (pay particular attention to size and services offered and proximity to the beach).On a positive note, many of the older hotels—and even the newer ones—are upgrading and refurbishing to handle the tourism upswing the island is now enjoying. Time-shares continue to spring up everywhere, and some chain hotels have erected separate buildings adjacent to their hotel properties specifically for time-shares. This market has contributed to increasing tourism numbers in Aruba.

Facts
Geostats

Passport/Visa Requirements: All U.S. citizens must have a passport when traveling by air to or from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Mexico. Citizens of Canada, Mexico and the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda also must have a passport or other designated secure document to enter the U.S.Beginning 1 June 2009, passports are required for land crossings at the Canadian and Mexican borders with the U.S. and for cruise passengers returning to the U.S. from Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada or Bermuda. Reconfirm travel-document requirements with your carrier prior to departure.Proof of onward passage is required. Certain airlines may require confirmation of return flight before departure, but the major airlines do not.Population: 100,018.Languages: Dutch (official), English, Papiamento, Spanish.Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant), Jewish.Time Zone: 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.Voltage Requirements: 110 volts.Telephone Codes: 297, island code;

Money
Currency Exchange

ATMs that accept foreign bank cards are located at more than 50 locations throughout the island, including the airport, shopping malls and banks. This is the best way to obtain currency. Most banks are open Monday-Friday 8 am-noon and 1:30-4 pm.Aruba has its own currency, the florin. However, there is really no reason for U.S. visitors to exchange money. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. Personal checks are not accepted, traveler’s checks are a bit old-fashioned and troublesome, but still widely accepted. Major credit cards are the preferred and safest method of paying for all but small purchases, tips, taxi fare and snacks at small restaurants.

Taxes

Be aware that there is an 11% government room tax, a 1% AHTA (hotel association) contribution and an average 10% hotel service charge added to your room rate. Energy fees and other charges also may be tacked on. Be aware that the service charge does not go to the housekeeping staff, and an additional tip is appreciated. Determine in advance if your rate includes these taxes and other charges.U.S. citizens must also pay an airport departure tax of US$36.75 (US$33.50 for others) if staying in Aruba longer than 24 hours. This is often included in the airline ticket price.

Tipping

A 15% service charge is normally included in the bill, but may not be given to the wait staff. If in doubt, ask the restaurant manager. If the service charge is not added or given to the person who serves you, leave a 10%-20% tip for good service. Tip taxi drivers 10% of the fare and bellmen or porters US$1-$2 per bag.

Weather

Aruba is consistently warm throughout the year, and the humidity is very low. The average day temperatures are in the 70s-80s F/23-32 C, with nights in the 60s-70s F/15-27 C. It’s rainy November-February, but the rain seldom lasts longer than half an hour. Annual rainfall is less than 20 in/50 cm.The coolest months are January and February, and the hottest are August and September.The island is outside the main hurricane belt, so it’s one of the best islands to visit July-October, when the rest of the Caribbean is threatened (even so, our favorite time to visit Aruba is January-June).Trade winds blow steadily from the northeast year-round (the breezes can be refreshing, but you’ll have to hang on to your hat at the beach).

What to Wear

Even though Aruba is an informal island, it’s considered rude to wear swimsuits anywhere other than at the beach or pool. Do not sit in a taxi in a wet suit.Most casinos do not require men to wear jackets in the evening, but some upscale restaurants expect evening diners to dress smartly. Casual summer clothing is appropriate in most other circumstances.Take a light sweater for cool evenings or air-conditioned restaurants or casinos.Topless sunbathing is frowned upon at public beaches but can be found at some private resorts.

Communication
Telephone

In Oranjestad, international calls can be made at hotels, at the post office, and at Servicio di Telecommunicacion di Aruba (SETAR), and at Fast Phone in the Paseo Herencia Mall. Cell phones are rented at the airport arrival area kiosk by Fast Phone. Expect hotels to add a service charge onto the cost of international calls. At the SETAR office behind Royal Plaza, you can purchase calling cards to make international calls from the phones on the street, or you can make the call right there.Fast Phone has fixed lines and cell phones for customer use at Paseo Herencia Mall. Calling cards are also available at post offices and several shops. SETAR (http://www.setar.aw) and Fast Phone (http://www.arubafastphones.com) also rents cell phones.

Internet Access

Aruba is one of the best-wired islands in the Caribbean; you’ll find in-room Internet access and/or Wi-Fi (often free) in many resorts and hotels. Oranjestad has two Internet cafes, and there are at least 30 Wi-Fi hotspots on the island, including a location at the cruise terminal, the airport and the National Library in Oranjestad. For more information, see http://www.wifi-aruba.com/hotspots.html.

Mail & Package Services

The main post office in Oranjestad is on Irausquinplein (phone 582-1900). It’s open Monday-Friday 7:30 am-noon and 1:30-4 pm. Federal Express receptacles are also available, one of which is in Royal Plaza Mall.

Newspapers & Magazines

Aruba Nights and Experience Aruba are free publications that are available in hotel lobbies and other tourist locations. These magazines publish happy hours, theme-night dinners, concerts, movies and other entertainment options.The local daily newspaper, Bon Dia, is printed in Papiamento and on sale thoughout the island. An English language edition is available online at http://www.arubatoday.com.

Transportation

Regular public bus service covers a wide arc around Oranjestad and includes the hotel strip, San Nicolas and all but the remote sections on the windward side of the island. A new main bus terminal is near the waterfront shops and harbor in Oranjestad, Sabana Blanco 67. Phone 582-7089; http://www.arubus.com.If there are two or more people in your group, taking taxis may be your best bet. Rental cars, Jeeps and motor scooters also are readily available at the airport, hotels and in town.

Air

Queen Beatrix Airport (AUA) is a modern facility 2.5 mi/4 km southeast of Oranjestad. Recent and ongoing improvements include new shops and restaurants in the refurbished and enlarged terminal.Airline service changes seasonally, but major international carriers include American, Continental, Delta, KLM, Jet Blue and Air Canada.Major rental car companies maintain branches at the airport. A taxi to downtown Oranjestad costs about US$13, and to the hotel area, about US$20.Public buses operated by Arubus (582-7089; http://www.arubus.com) travel frequently from a stop just off the airport grounds to Oranjestad and the hotel strip. Visitors returning to the U.S. can now clear customs in Aruba.The route is a bit tricky to navigate, but follow the signs and arrows and you’ll be rewarded when you land in the U.S. Aruba’s airport is one of only three or four in the Caribbean that use jet ways. http://www.airportaruba.com.

Car

Rental cars are available at the airport and near the cruise-ship terminal. Prices start at about US$35 a day. (Jeeps and vans are priced much higher.) A driver’s license is required, and you must be at least 21 years old.Main roads on the island are in good repair, but some dirt roads to popular tourist sites can be a bit bumpy. If you plan to visit more rural parts of the island, rent a Jeep or another vehicle with a high suspension. Ask for a road map when you rent the vehicle, or use the maps available in several attraction guides. The most complete one we found was in Aruba Quick Reference Guide, available from the tourism office (and sometimes found in hotel brochure racks). Driving is on the right. Be aware that residents drive aggressively.

Public Transportation

Public buses (Arubus) are inexpensive (US$2 round-trip) and are a fairly good way to get around most parts of the island. But they can also be crowded and slow at times. Most stop running after 6 pm. The main bus depot is a large, modern facitily across from the cruise-ship terminal in Oranjestad. L-10 is the tourist route from town to the high-rise district, as the Palm Beach hotel area is known locally. Buses run every half-hour on the route. Phone 582-7089. http://www.arubus.com.

Ship

Several cruise ships include Aruba on Caribbean itineraries. They dock in Oranjestad, right at the pier.

Taxi

Determine the fare prior to getting in—taxis are not metered, but fares are set—about US$13 from airport to downtown, US$17 to the low-rise hotels, US$20 to Palm Beach high-rise resorts. (Fares increase after midnight and on Sunday and holidays.)There is a US$5 minimum fare. Taxi drivers are often amenable to serving as private tour guides, charging around US$40 per hour for up to four passengers.Taxis are abundant, most drivers have participated in the training provided by the tourism board and speak clear English. Hotels and restaurants will arrange for taxi service, or phone dispatch at 587-5900.

For More Information

Tourist OfficesAruba: Aruba Tourism Authority, L.G. Smith Blvd. 172, Oranjestad. Phone 582-3777. Fax 583-4702. http://www.aruba.com.U.S.: Aruba Tourism Authority, 100 Plaza Drive, First Floor,
Secaucus, NJ 07094. Phone 800-862-7822 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800-862-7822      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or 201-558-1110 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              201-558-1110      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, fax: 201-558-4767.Aruba EmbassiesAs a part of the Netherlands, Aruba is represented by Dutch embassies.Canada: Embassy of the Netherlands, 350 Albert St., Suite 2020, Ottawa, ON K1R 1A4. Phone 613-237-5030 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              613-237-5030      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or 877-388-2443 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              877-388-2443      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Fax 613-237-6471. http://www.netherlandsembassy.ca.U.S.: Embassy of the Netherlands, 4200 Linnean Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20008. Phone 877-388-2443 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              877-388-2443      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or 202-244-5300 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              202-244-5300      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Fax 202-362-3430. http://www.netherlands-embassy.org.Foreign Embassies Serving ArubaCanada: Canada is represented by its consulate in Curacao: Maduro and Curiels Bank N.V., 2-4 Plaza Jojo Correa, Willemstad. Phone 599-9-466-1115. Fax 599-9-466-1122.U.S.: The U.S. is represented by its consulate in Curacao: J.B. Gorsiraweg 1, Willemstad. Phone 599-9-461-3066. Fax 599-9-461-6489. http://curacao.usconsulate.gov

Recommended Guidebooks

Caribbean Handbook by Sarah Cameron (Footprint Handbooks).Ports of Call by Kay Showker (Globe Pequot).

Additional Reading

An Island Away by Daniel Putkowski (Hawser Press).

Events
Calendar

Carnival is the most important celebration on the island, and it lasts more than a month, beginning around the second week in January and continuing into February.Carnival kicks off with a Children’s Carnival that is followed by music, dance, costumes, tumba (traditional carnival and dancing) and other competitions. The highlight for most people is the Grand Parade, held on the final Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday features the Old Mask Parade and the burning of King Momo, a traditional Carnival symbol. http://www.visitaruba.com.The Soul Beach Music Festival (http://www.soulbeach.net) is held in May. Also in May is the Aruba Food & Wine Festival. June brings the International Triathlon, and windsurfers of all skill levels compete in the Hi-Winds Amateur World Challenge. July starts off with the Annual Aruba Reef Care Project, where residents and tourists pitch in to clean the beaches and sea floor, and have fun doing it.In August, Tierra del Sol Golf Resort hosts the International Pro-Am Golf Tournament. Rock-music fans attend the Aruba Music Festival in October.Racing boats from the U.S., Europe and Venezuela compete in the Aruba Heineken Catamaran Regatta in November. http://www.arubaregatta.com.If you’re in Oranjestad on a Tuesday, try to attend the Bon Bini Festival in the courtyard inside the fort 6:30-8:30 pm. Bon bini means “welcome,” and Arubans make visitors feel right at home with local music, dancing, food and crafts.St. Nicholas Day (6 December) marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Aruba. On this day, Santa Claus arrives by boat in Oranjestad and distributes gifts to children. The festivities continue throughout the month. In addition to fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve, singers and musicians go from house to house (and, in the tourist areas, from hotel to hotel). Don’t expect to get any sleep if you’re visiting on this night. They even go from store to store on downtown Main Street. Danda is the music they play. The songs they sing ask that you be blessed and have a happy year that brings children. Of course, they pass the hat and the more you give, the more they sing.For more information, visit http://www.seawardtravels.com

NORTHSTAR Travel Media, LLC. ©2010 All rights reserved

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